Using Up Many Vegetables at Once

I made this for dinner last night, and it was yummy.  I managed to use up my red cabbage and beets, plus onions, carrots, and garlic from the garden, and thyme and dill from my backyard herb garden.  This is from the newish Cooks Illustrated Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.

Beet and Wheat Berry Soup with Dill Cream

Serves 6


2/3 cup wheat berries (not the quick cooking or precooked kind), rinsed

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions, chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

8 cups vegetable broth

3 cups water

1 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage

1 pound beets, trimmed, peeled, and shredded

1 small carrot, peeled and shredded

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Dill Cream

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup minced fresh dill

1/2 teaspoon salt

1.  For the Soup:  Toast wheat berries in dutch oven over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and beginning to darken, about 5 minutes; transfer to bowl.

2.  Heat oil in now-empty pot over medium heat until shimmering.  Stir in onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomato paste and cayenne and cook until darkened slightly, about 2 minutes.

3.  Stir in broth and water, scraping up any browned bits.  Stir in toasted wheat berries, cabbage, beets, carrot, bay leaf and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until wheat berries are tender but still chewy and vegetables are tender, 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours.

4.  For the Dill Cream:  Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in bowl.

5.  Off heat, discard bay leaf, and stir in vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Top individual portions with dill cream and serve.

Free seeds from a famous Arlington beet

For several weeks now, we have been handing out decks of Veggie School flashcards, for youngsters who have yet to learn their basic veggies. This weekend we added sample packets of Crosby Egyptian Beets, for their older brothers and sisters. Each packet contains a couple dozen pods of 4 to 6 seeds each, enough for several containers or half a row in a home garden. 

In their day, Crosby Egyptians were one of this country's most sought after beets among market gardeners. Their early growth cycle, their extended youth, and their ease of preparation for market all brought more money to market gardeners’ bottom lines.

The Crosby Egyptian was first cultivated in the late-1860’s on a farm owned and operated by Josiah Crosby, one of the largest farms in Arlington, located on Lake Street facing east towards Cambridge.  The Crosby Egyptian was a much improved version of a beet called the Flat Egyptian, imported from Germany, where beets had been first developed.

The Crosby Beet set itself apart from the Flat Egyptian in several ways that made it a better value proposition for many market gardeners. It liked cool weather; so it could be planted earlier in the growing season and brought to market sooner, when beet prices were higher. It was not as quick to turn tough in its growth cycle. Crosby Beets stayed tender and tasty longer than Flat Egyptians, during most all of the growing season.  Finally, the Crosby’s skin was much smoother, which made it easier and more efficient to clean in preparation for market. Altogether, Crosby Beets meant a better bottom line for market gardeners, compared to the Flat Egyptians from which they had been evolved.

Though the owner of one of the largest market gardening farms in Arlington (much larger, for example, than the Robbins Farm), Josiah Crosby was not a seed distributor. He was not set up for that kind of business. So in the early 1880’s he sold the rights to his new beet to James H. Gregory, one of the country’s leading commercial sellers of seeds, based in Gloucester, MA

Gregory added the Crosby Beets to his catalog in 1885, where they became an instant success. In one of his seed catalogs from 1890, Gregory quotes George B. Courtis, “one of our best resident market gardeners” as saying “After trials of many varieties, I pronouce the Crosby’s Egyptian the best for the early market.”

Even today, with their heart-like shape, their smooth crimson skin, and their sweet red flesh, Crosbys are still regarded by many home gardeners as one of the finer beets around.

Beautiful red beets


Yesterday we harvested some really beautiful red beets–Chioggias, from Italy–one of four varieties we're growing in the garden this year. These were planted just over two months ago, on March 21.

Cut in two, a Chioggia looks a lot like a bb target with its red and white rings. For people who like beets, it makes a colorful addition to a salad.

Not everyone likes beets, however. While many love them, many also hate them. President Obama and the First Lady, for example, both count themselves among the thumbs-down-to-beets segment of the population, roughly a third of the country. That's why there's not a single beet growing in the White House's kitchen garden.

Why do some folks not like beets? For most, it's because of their bad luck in the genetic casino. They ended up with a set of genes that make them especially sensitive to the scent of geosmins, bacterial debris that give fresh dirt its fresh smell, but that also (for these poor souls, at least) make fresh beets taste like dirt. (Google "beets" and "taste like dirt" and you'll see how widespread this phenomenon is.)

Beets are not the only veggie that puts off certain segments of the population. Cilantro does, too. About 10% of the country thinks fresh Cilantro tastes like soap.  Fresh tomatoes, too. For a very small slice of the population, sliced tomatoes taste gross, like totally icky.

All because of unlucky draws from the gene pool.

Our hearts go out to these poor souls; but this also means all the more for the rest of us (!).



Fall Crop Update

The peak of the harvest is past, and yet we tried second plantings of some crops because we had the space, to see what would happen.  With about a month to go, here's their progress.

Cabbage & Cauliflower:  large leaves, producing well, but no sign of heads yet.

Carrots:  leafy fronds are doing well; no sign of poking out of the ground.

Beets:  alive but struggling.

Spinach:  mostly eaten by Something.

Peas:  half-height, base leaves yellowing, no sign of peas.

Lettuce:  looking good!  Might harvest some next week.

Also, here's an update on some first plantings:

Eggplant:  *continues* to produce, though more slowly.

Beans:  the bush beans produced another handful; the pole beans have disappointed.

Potatoes:  we pulled a single plant to obtain some potatoes for display at Town Day.  The number amidst the roots was extensive, and while mostly small-to-tiny, there was at least one big red one.  From just one plant!

Squash:  the tiny zucchini was accidently harvested; there's still a medium yellow squash; and the pattipan has several small fruits (not to mention flowers) which it thinks it has time to make bigger -- we'll see.

The mildew is back to some extent on the squash, and worse, has jumped to the other side of the garden and covered the collard leaves.

The rest of the greens (kale, chard, arugula and other herbs) still doing well.

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